When it comes to Taylor Swift, I have always been a cynic, her slightly naughty breakup songs marketed for 13-year-old girls are a total bore for me, and her nice girl image is cleverly manufactured: she looks like a virgin but does the serial dating, she is not too sexual like Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry but she is still bitter and vengeful, remember that ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ song? She is a businesswoman, and a millionaire (her income gross was $55 million in 2013) and probably has an army of people behind her to maintain the Taylor Swift brand. Yes, this girl has built an empire at 24 and you may find this remarkable, but I am never been really impressed by people able to make tons of money.
Anyway, being Taylor Swift, the very successful girl in the music industry when precisely this music industry is falling apart, gave her the right (?), the opportunity (?), the authority (?) to write an essay about the music industry for the Wall Street Journal. Entitled, ‘For Taylor Swift, the future of music is a love story’, she, right away, announces her color: pink everywhere you look:
‘You should know that you’re reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it’s just coming alive.’
Well, how could she not be optimistic? She fills up giant stadiums and sells millions of records, but does it ever occur to her that she belongs to a very small club? Not really, she continues:
‘In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace.’
Give me a break, Taylor Swift doesn’t bleed for her bubble gum music! Does she means she has bled much more than many others because she is selling lots of records? There’s nothing admirable in this declaration, and I find it extremely self-serving and borderline arrogant. Look at me, I put all my heart and soul in these albums of mine, and I value my work, so I am successful. I see hundreds of musicians every week who are very talented and I am certain they put a lot of heart and soul in their music,… how many are gonna make it and sell music? Who knows? 1% may be?
But she continues:
‘They [people] are buying only the ones [albums] that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren’t alone in feeling so alone’
‘Like an arrow through the heart’? How many rainbows and unicorns should I visualize with this? Plus she is wrong, yes people are still buying albums but this represents a very small percentage, decreasing every day. When you are Taylor Swift, this may still be a significant number considering how much she sells, but it is not the case for most musicians. Plus, I can tell you that kids stream a lot, they stream and share, and they even do it for albums that mean a lot to them. As a matter of fact, I do it too because it’s convenient and free!
She also has something to say about art of course:
‘Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is.’
First of all, a lot of important and meaningful art was never successful, she seems to be confused about this. It’s not because you are selling a lot that you are making art, girl. Secondly, what passes for music these days is anything but rare, everyone makes music with a computer. Thirdly, music should not be free but it is! Does Taylor know about the Internet? Music is not bound to a scarce object called the CD, music is digital. I just open Spotify and I can listen to whatever I want for free, I don’t even pay a subscription,…. I can even google ‘Taylor Swift albums download’ and get all her albums for free in a few minutes, this is today’s reality. But I forgot, Taylor lives on her faraway rosy planet.
‘It isn’t as easy today as it was 20 years ago to have a multiplatinum-selling album, and as artists, that should challenge and motivate us,’ she continues as patronizing as motivation speaker Tony Robbins. Personally, if I were a struggling musician reading this, I would say Taylor you can go f…. yourself.
And she goes on and on about this romantic bond people have with albums:
‘There are always going to be those artists who break through on an emotional level and end up in people’s lives forever.’ […] ‘Some songs and albums represent seasons of our lives, like relationships that we hold dear in our memories but had their time and place in the past.’
She sounds like my mother, or grandmother. This may have been true 40 years ago when there were just a few artists on the market, right now the market is inundated with releases, and it has grown exponentially. I observe adolescents every day, and they move on to the next thing fast, very fast, and if there are a few favorites, I doubt they will be the same ones in a decade.
Taylor is very successful and she thinks she knows why:
‘I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say “shock”; I said “surprise.” I believe couples can stay in love for decades if they just continue to surprise each other, so why can’t this love affair exist between an artist and their fans?’
Oh stop with this relationship metaphor!! Are you sleeping with each one of your fans? And what surprise can a Taylor Swift concert bring?
‘To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me’
Never seen before? OMG, Taylor has invented the special guest, I sure had never heard of this before. She has also a smart insight about new technology, the selfie has replaced the autograph, and that the number of followers on Instagram or Twitter will give you a record deal. Sure, but isn’t it a circular reasoning?
And she has another advice, after noticing that genres in music are fading away:
‘In this moment in music, stepping out of your comfort zone is rewarded, and sonic evolution is not only accepted…it is celebrated. The only real risk is being too afraid to take a risk at all.’ Err…. just remind me what artistic risk Taylor took recently?
So if you are impressed by her essay in the WSJ, you will be impressed by most of the high school essays I get every day, it’s self-centered and it doesn’t get the big picture of the current market. To sum up her point of view, the music industry is not doing badly because she is very rich and knows how to connect with her fans,… out of touch may be?
Sure, I am making fun of Taylor, but, at least, she is articulate, Kanye West for example could have never written a 1000-word essay that makes sense as the one she wrote. However, I was hoping for Kanye to crash her Wall Street Journal essay all along.
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